The Gift of Fear

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

September 26, 2005

What do you fear?  Who can’t identify with Indiana Jones who looks up from the deep pit he must descend into, a pit writhing in motion, and grumbles into the camera, “Snakes.  I hate snakes.”

Movies have made millions from cultivating fear of stalkers coming out of the dark to attack the unsuspecting.  This makes a great plot line, but in real life we have little to fear.

Gavin De Becker in his bestseller The Gift of Fear dispelled the notion that human beings are defenseless against random acts of violence.  Fear, he explained, was actually a set of “survival signals that protect us from violence.”

De Becker is one of the nation’s leading experts on predicting human violence.  As a three-time presidential appointee, he has advised many of the world’s most prominent media figures, corporations and law enforcement agencies on predicting violence.

Casey Gwinn, San Diego City Attorney, says, “De Becker moves the reader from victim to victor as he identifies the God-given abilities we all have to avoid the risks we face from our society’s predators.”  The key to De Becker’s protection plan is fear…welcoming fear as a tool of prediction and protection.

Using Kelly’s real-life story of nearly losing her life after a rape, De Becker leads the reader through key moments where Kelly ignored her intuition that she was in danger.  The man who appeared silently out of nowhere, the man offering her help she didn’t need or ask for, the man’s excessive charm, his persistent conversation laden with incredible details…all of these were clues Kelly buried in her subconscious, refusing to believe this ordinary man fit her vision of a rapist.

Ignoring the signs of danger and suppressing her gift of fear nearly cost Kelly her life.  Only by using extraordinary courage and cunning, did Kelly manage to slip out of her apartment to safety.

Signs of danger surround us in every aspect of our life.  We know to trust our pets when they perk their ears and become agitated.  In Arizona, an eerie dead calm in the air can signal an approaching violent summer storm.  Years of smoking tobacco should put a person on guard for cancer or emphysema.  Fear of intruders, storms and cancer may engulf us.  But if fear is used as a gift, we are in a position to save ourselves.

So, what about sex?  And what about sex education?  Most importantly, what about fear-based sex education?

The conundrum needs explaining.  If one supports fact-based medically accurate information about sex, then we must face many unwelcome facts about sexual liberation.  The facts tell one simple truth.  We are not liberated from the consequences of sex.

Yet, the very people who claim expertise on sex, SIECUS and its allies, are the first to decry programs that tell the truth about the consequences of sex.  While SIECUS and its allies promote condoms like an all-purpose band-aid for cuts, broken legs and severed arteries, the truth about condoms requires a complete presentation of their limitations.

Condoms are not going to be the savior of sexually active teens.  Facts about the limitations of condoms are supported by research and medical experts in fully documented reports readily available to the public.  Conscientious teachers have a duty to tell students about incurable viral STDs, infertility, cervical cancer, and AIDS.

Yet, SIECUS continues to shame such educators with charges that they are promoting fear.  Education based on medically accurate facts is fear-based?  Shame on you, SIECUS.

Fear, if properly used, is a gift.  It calls our attention to the dangers around us and gives us the opportunity to avoid those dangers.

Fear is a call of accountability to those who hold the power of information.  It requires our attention to detail and our full evaluation of all facts on hand.  Crying “fear-based” in the media is no more responsible than crying “fire” in a crowd.

De Becker says it well.  “Denial has an interesting and insidious side effect.  For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take …is far, far greater than that of those who accept the possibility.  Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level, and it causes a constant low-grade anxiety.”

Sex and fear?  Not if you are armed with the truth and respect fear as a gift.  We owe a debt of thanks to the educators who respect fear as an opportunity to talk truth with the children we love.

July 11, 2005 – Medically Accurate Cowards

 “Condoms: What’s Still at Risk?” brochure available from The Medical Institute

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